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I am here… Edinburgh 2017

July 18, 2017


It’s that time of year again… when eighteenth-centuryists of the world gather in one special place and try to put the world to rights – or at least all aspects of the world to do with the furtherance of eighteenth-century scholarship – which is an important place to start.

Edinburgh feels strange in this heat.  Unfamiliar – even to its own inhabitants.  Princes Gardens is full of prone bodies.  Nowhere, of course, is air conditioned.   A city that looks magnificent in any weather looks slightly artificial in magnificent weather.   I, of course, am jet-lagged, having been in  Canada 48 hours ago with just a 26 hour break in Ireland.

Am I in a fit state to perform adequately as an elected official of the ISECS executive and spread Reason and Enlightenment across this small planet we call home?  I’ll have to be.

Today is the business day, the day of accounts and accounting and reports and correspondence.  Tomorrow the symposium, a polite little conference, this year on the idea of the city in the eighteenth-century.  We eighteenth-centuryists are slow, patient, polite and bilingual discussants – apt and experienced at conserving energy in the heat. Some of us are elected and others mandated – but all discretely confederal and diplomatic.

We are supremely reflexive here at ISECS, pondering the intellectual legacy of the long eighteenth-century and then pondering the pondering of it.

Increasingly, we feel the need to intervene in the twenty-first century, if only to try to inform debates about so-called “Western Civilisation” with the occasional nugget from someone who might know how and when this notion was first concocted.

In fact, I think, when historians write of how humanity fought back from the brink of unreason and despair in the middle decades of the twenty-first century, ISECS will have at least a footnote – not least because we really like footnotes.

And the Executive Meeting of the International Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies will feel like… an Ent-moot.



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